Make sure your child has a balanced, healthy lunch that caters to his dietary requirements by packing a brown-bag lunch. Although these meals-on-the-go have greatly evolved from the paper-sack days to cooled totes and heated thermoses, the contents inside should still offer a nutritious meal. Choose colorful, simple, easy-to-eat foods.
Lunch Bag Essentials
Before sending your child out the door, make sure his lunch makes it safely to mealtime. Perishable foods should get eaten without two hours if not refrigerated or cooled, according to the American Dietetic Association. A frozen water bottle or small cold pack inside an insulated lunch bag or box will keep your little one's meal cool until mid-day. For warm foods, such as soup or pasta, use an insulated thermos.
Main Dish Ideas
Since kids only have 20 to 30 minutes on average to eat lunch, pack a meal that's ready to eat and doesn't require a microwave to prepare. Sandwiches on whole-grain breads contain protein and fiber. You can freeze the sandwich the night before, recommends "Good Housekeeping" magazine, to make sure the child's lunch doesn't perish. Hearty vegetable-based soups kept warm in a thermos can warm your little's one's tummy on a cold winter day. Or if soup and sandwiches aren't your child's ideal meal, try deli-sliced meats and cheeses piled on wheat crackers.
Fruits and Veggies
Pack durable fruits and veggies that won't turn to mush if the lunch bag gets dropped. Peel-and-eat fruits such as bananas or oranges travel well, and add vitamins to the meal. For younger children, seal ready-to-eat fruits in small plastic storage containers. Washed strawberries and blueberries fit well into little hands. You can make vegetables fun by filling celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins or vegetable cream cheese. Or offer a trio of broccoli florets, cauliflower and baby carrots with a cup of light ranch dressing or hummus.
Keep dessert simple and easy in a school lunch. A pair of fresh-basked cookies, cup of pudding or a granola bar should satisfy your child's sweet tooth. Choose goodies made with oatmeal and nuts to add extra protein and minerals to your child's diet. When you're out of traditional kid-friendly desserts, you can always pack a small baggie of your child's favorite sweetened breakfast cereal.
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